Uganda: Rugunda Distances Self From COVID-19 Relief Food Procurement Irregularities

The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, has distanced himself, President Museveni and the First Lady Janet Museveni from the alleged irregularities in the procurement of relief food for the people most affected by the ongoing lockdown.

On Thursday, four top OPM officials who included accounting officers were detained for allegedly inflating prices of the relief food supplied by Aponye (U) Ltd.

The suspects include; Ms Christine Guwatudde Kintu (the Permanent Secretary OPM), Martin Owor (the Commissioner Disaster Preparedness also the head of Covid-19 relief management), Joel Wanjala (the Assistant Commissioner Procurement) and Fred Lutimba (the Commissioner Disaster Management).

They were detained following directives by President Museveni to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate alleged irregularities in Covid-19 related food procurement exercise.

"The President on Wednesday directed us to investigate allegations of inflated prices of Covid-19 relief food procurement. We got evidence that the officials were inflating figures yet there were suppliers willing to supply to government at lower prices," Col Edith Nakalema, the head of State House Anti-Corruption Unit told journalists at the Office of the President in Kampala on Thursday.

"We also noticed that the officers had refused to award tenders to those willing to supply government at lower prices. The low price suppliers had the capacity to supply to government but they were denied contracts," she added.

After the arrest, social media was awash with claims linking the PM, President and the First Lady to the procurement issues which are currently being investigated by Col Nakalema-led Anti-Corruption Unit.

However, the Prime Minister on Thursday evening issued a statement distancing himself from the investigations.

"My attention has been drawn to a malicious fabrication making rounds on various social media platforms linking me, the First Lady and HE the president to the procurement issues of beans and posho meant for people most affected by the lockdown measures. I would like to inform all of you that this is absolutely not true. It should be ignored and treated with the contempt it deserves," Mr Rugunda said.

He further revealed that neither the President nor the First Lady contacted him about Aponye or any other company to supply posho and beans.

"Therefore I dismiss these fabrications," he added.

While flagging off the food distribution exercise meant to benefit 1.5 million vulnerable people living in Kampala and Wakiso districts on April 4, Mr Rugunda said he would ensure every money invested in the exercise is accounted for.

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